Review: Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius

ARC: 291 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
In this wonderfully creative retelling of the infamous—and torrid—love affair between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, history collides with the present when a sizzling romance ignites in a modern-day high school. 

 Henry Tudor’s life has been mapped out since the day he was born: student body president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father’s. But ever since the death of his brother, the pressure for Henry to be perfect has doubled. And now he’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who isn’t Tudor-approved. Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life. Wild, brash, and outspoken, Anne is everything Henry isn’t allowed to be—or want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, but his desire for Anne consumes him. Henry is willing to do anything to be with her, but once they’re together, will their romance destroy them both? Inspired by the true story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, Anne & Henry beautifully reimagines the intensity, love, and betrayal between one of the most infamous couples of all time.

I wasn't too familiar with the original story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, let alone familiar with the author Dawn Ius, so I went into Anne & Henry not knowing what to expect. I have to admit, though, after reading the first chapter, my interest and curiosity was piqued. Anne & Henry became a way for me to learn more about Anne and Henry through reading hints of their past and seeing what their modern selves might've been like if they lived during our time. 

Although I had some issues with the characters and the plot of the story, I still found Anne & Henry enlightening to read as I built some understanding for the characters and their real-life counterparts.
Anne & Henry was told in alternating perspective, and I liked that it was for how different Anne and Henry were as characters. From the very beginning of the novel, it was made clear that both Anne and Henry had their problems and insecurities. They've both made mistakes and have been haunted by them ever since and they both were somewhat dissatisfied with how their lives were at present. Yet, despite their issues and their shared feelings of guilt and loneliness, on the outside, their personalities and social standards were very different. Anne occupied the rash, stubborn, I-could-care-less end and Henry stood at the rich, popular, everyone-bow-down-to-me end. For that reason, I thought that the alternating perspective was appropriate for the story as both characters clearly had some perspective to contribute. I also welcomed it as I always do when reading a book because it gave me the opportunity to get to know each character and develop some kind of connection with them each. Whether or not I thought that I would be friends with them in real life, I was able to sympathize with both Anne and Henry and I hoped that both will reach some peace within themselves in the end. 

However, as I followed both Anne and Henry, I felt that the dual perspective was a bit of a hindrance to the logical flow of the story. Usually when a book is in dual perspective, time, date, and events are ordered just as logically and easily as a book told in only one perspective. For instance, as one character is said to be doing one thing, the other character is found to be doing another thing at the same time, and the time or the length of time that passed between each chapter was always somehow established. In Anne & Henry, though, that logical order seemed to be lacking. Every time I went from one chapter to the next, I felt confused because there was little to no transition from one character's point of view to the other character's point of view and what time or what day it was did not always come up until a few paragraphs or even a page later. Then, I always wondered what might have happened within those long hours or days in between, if Anne and Henry were just too busy to see each other or was such passing of time too insignificant for the story. Obviously, the author is not going to write about every single minute of the characters' lives or the novel will be a million pages long, but there were instances in the story when I wondered what passed between the lapse in time and I wondered why such a gap was made in the first place. I don't quite know how to explain it, but the flow of the story could've been smoother. 

I was also bothered by how instantaneous the attraction was between Anne and Henry. Like my romances to have a gradual development, but in this novel, the deep attraction between Anne and Henry began from the very first page of the book. No matter how sincerely they both tried to show their feelings for each other, for the most part, I was unconvinced of their love. Only toward the end when the two were making some great sacrifices for each other to be together did I somewhat think that their feelings may be true. Still, I could not quite root for them to be together. Also, now that I reflect on it, I imagine that was how the relationship between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII's must have been: full of passion, full of need, and full of instability and imminent disaster. When their relationship seemed to be heading toward seriousness toward the end, the optimist in me held some small hope for Anne and Henry, but really, their attraction for each other was too instant to be lasting.

It's not going to come as a surprise that Anne & Henry did not end happily, and as much as it broke my happily-ever-after loving heart, I thought the author did a good job penning the ending, especially considering the basis of the story. Throughout the whole novel, I did not particularly like Henry and I more sympathized with Anne. I mean, yes, I connected to both on some level and saw both characters' views, but as far as personalties went, I sided much more with Anne than Henry. Henry was such an overweening jerk, and his arrogance and conceit really came to a head at the end of Anne & Henry. I felt so sorry for Anne: even though she had her moments of brattiness, I understood more where she was coming from. When she was treated so unfairly and unjustly in the end, I felt for her and applauded her for keeping her head up through it all. I imagine--I'm sure--the real Anne Boleyn faced the same kind of persecution when she was sentenced to be beheaded. With that in mind, I thought the author wrote the end very well, not only in retelling Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII's story, but also to express the message of how far people may and will go to get what they want if and when it suits them. Yes, the ending of Anne & Henry was not the warmest or happiest of endings, but it definitely was an eye-opening one that puts into perspective both love and greed.

I wouldn't call Anne & Henry one of my favorite reads of the summer and I did have some issues with it while reading it, but I nonetheless appreciated it and was engaged until the very end. I recommend Anne & Henry to high schoolers who may not have a natural inclination toward reading history texts--this book will surely shed some light on one of history's most infamous leaders/rulers. I also recommend it to anyone who likes their YA history and/or retellings because Ius's Anne & Henry exhibits both the ability to redefine historical figures and discuss the timeless issues of today's society.
Anne & Henry is out in stores tomorrow!

1 comment

  1. I definitely agree with you about the dual perspective Leslie! I forgot to make mention of it in my review but the flow seemed off. I didn't mind the same-time-pov aspect, but I was really confused when a chapter ended and we switch POVs to like 3 days later.

    For some reason, I was OBSESSED with Anne Boleyn as a child. Her life is so depressing. ): You should check out The Other Boleyn Girl. Mostly accurate.


Thank you so much to stopping by today and taking the time to comment.